Superior simplicity: Maserati MC20 tested on track
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Performance cars in the modern day come in all different shapes and sizes; you’ve got tiny city-hopping hot hatches with crackling turbocharged engines, through to gargantuan SUVs that will hit three figures in less than four seconds. The theme across vehicles like this is that they provide impressive performance, but also have a role to fill in everyday life, so have to make some large compromises.
At the other end of this performance scale are the track-focused road cars, that make no compromise for what they are, and offer some of the best thrills short of a Movie World roller coaster. Maserati’s all-new MC20 is a perfect example of an uncompromised performance car, and just recently, we were lucky enough to head over to Australia, and give it a bash around the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit.
As with all brands, things are changing at Maserati, and the days of the Ferrari-sourced twin-turbo V8 engine found in the Ghibli Trofeo are numbered, but that doesn’t mean internal combustion is dead. This is where the MC20 comes into the picture, with its all-new twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 engine dubbed ‘Nettuno’. This is the engine that we can expect to see in Maserati’s petrol-powered performance cars going forward, and it’s certainly worthy of this role.
Making 470kW and 730Nm, though this engine doesn’t quite possess the same note as the Ferrari-sourced V8, it’s a masterpiece. In place of the eight-cylinder roar, the addictive sound of the turbos spooling comes from behind the cabin, and makes for a far more “race-car” experience in my eyes.
Torque seems to be available at any point throughout the rev range, and it works together in perfect unison with the eight-speed automatic transmission to violently slam through gears as all great Italian exotics do.
With massive power and torque figures, it’s obvious that the MC20 is a performance car, but when weight is brought into the picture, it paints an even better story. Tipping the scales at less than 1500kg, Maserati has claimed that it has the best power-to-weight ratio in its segment (an impressive bragging right considering that the Porsche 911 GT3 falls into the same category).
This has been achieved through the use of a carbon tub, and a plethora of carbon fibre componentry throughout the car. This lack of mass allows it to hit 100km/h from a standing start in just 2.88 seconds, before topping out at over 326km/h. Hitting 100km/h in less than three seconds is something usually reserved for hypercars and high-performance EVs alike, so doing it in a small performance car is a phenomenal experience.
In a track environment, the MC20 thrives with oodles of power on tap, and race car-like stopping power. As with most high-performance cars, the carbon ceramic brakes fitted to the test cars are optional, and something well worth considering if track time is a consideration. Engine and the brakes aside, I’d say where the MC20 really shines is in the steering department.
Maserati uses an electric system that’s called ‘semi-virtual steering’, and although the road feedback isn’t amazing, the accuracy is fantastic. It was literally a point-and-shoot scenario with the chassis’ responsiveness at speed.
On the inside, the MC20 is well-equipped, but definitely leans on its race car nature over everyday usability. For starters, the butterfly doors look fantastic, but getting in and out isn’t something that’s easily done. Once in the car, the seating position is very low, but the electric seats provide a lot of adjustability.
As a hint to its carbon fibre underpinnings, the lightweight material covered almost every surface in the test car, and Alcantara covered the rest. An all-new infotainment screen has also been launched in the MC20, and serves as the main control point for the entertainment system as well as the drive modes. Because we were lapping the track, we didn’t get to have a play around with this system, but it looked impressive.
As with most supercars, one downfall of the MC20 came from the cabin visibility. The side windows aren’t great, and because of the low seating position, the blind spots are quite bad. Visibility out of the rear is non-existent, but a camera mounted above the rear bumper sends a live feed to a digital rear-view mirror - so that’s not all bad.
As a whole, this new MC20 feels like a massive step in the right direction for Maserati as a performance brand. It’s been a long time between drinks for Maserati on a supercar front, and this MC20 fills that hole and some.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear that Maserati is looking towards an electric future across its range, with the GranTurismo and Grecale both being confirmed to get electric power in the near future. The MC20 also falls under this banner, and while I don’t hate the idea of a small electric Italian track-lapping supercar, the MC20 won’t be the same without a burly engine spooling away behind the cabin.